What Is Working Remotely, and How Can I Do It Better Than Anyone Else?

Are your co-workers wondering, “What Is Working Remotely?” Show them by being the best remote employee in your company!

The majority of American professionals have worked remotely at some point in their careers, and if they haven’t, trends dictate that they will in the near future. When you think about it, this applies even to those who work in an office. Have you participated in a conference call? Sent a work email from home? Caught up on a report while on the subway? Welcome to the club! You’re part of the Remote Nation©. Our membership is growing every day.

But what is working remotely? How can you stand out in a burgeoning virtual workforce? What challenges do you face? The definition of working remotely is evolving. It can include the occasional off-campus responsibility or officing exclusively from a transatlantic apartment. For those of us who work from home or from locations other than a company’s headquarters, we have to establish ourselves as so memorable and so vital that colleagues think about us even though we aren’t physically present. Doing this better than everyone else in your company is achievable, as most professionals do a terrible job of making their presence memorable – and that’s with an in-person advantage!

Working remotely is similar to working on site in that to excel, you must make a special effort. The background might be different, but the demand isn’t. Don’t misunderstand me – this doesn’t mean it will be easy. You’ll still have to work at it. But you have an instant edge, because you’re willing to work at it. If you’re new to remote work, here are three areas to focus on as you get started. If you’re a practiced hand – perhaps too practiced and sliding into complacency – try refreshing your approach with these best practices.

Negotiate Your Scope of Work, Operating Parameters, and Support Requirements

There’s nothing that will jeopardize a remote worker’s career faster than poorly defined scope of work and loose operating parameters. If you’re going to succeed as a remote worker, people need to trust you. If you have one idea of your job and others have a different idea, you’re bound to create frustration without realizing it.

Getting things defined upfront, renegotiating terms as you go along, and setting good boundaries from the outset helps you avoid problems in the long run. Make sure to coordinate support requirements and project management tools with your manager and co-workers. Above all, do what you say you’re going to do. Unreliability will obliterate trust before you know it.

Prioritize Your Workload and Availability – Lock In Your Office Hours

Contrary to popular opinion among office workers, skilled remote workers are more efficient and diligent than most office folks because they don’t have as many distractions. In fact, conscientious remote workers have a hard time powering down, particularly when they work with an international team. That’s why it’s vital that remote workers negotiate their workload and establish their office hours right away.

This is a continual renegotiation, because everyone will push the boundaries as they come to value your contribution. But it’s much easier to remind people of an agreed upon standard.

If you don’t set some basic boundaries upfront, it’s all but impossible to establish them later. People get used to having you available, and they won’t like it if you try to reduce your availability later on: They’ll view this as reduction in services and will be resentful of you for taking something away from them. If you’re going to change your operating habits for any reason, let everyone know beforehand so surprise is minimal.

Establish an Engaged Network That Will Respond With Urgency

Sometimes remote workers can feel helpless when problems arise. Colleagues are at times unresponsive, and you can’t simply hustle over to the next office for advice or direction. But the most effective remote professionals know many people they can contact to get things done quickly and efficiently. Invest in networking with people you respect, and establish reciprocal arrangements with them: “I’ll be there for you if you’ll be there for me.” Maintain the relationships anyway you can so that your network stays active for the moments when you really need it. Don’t just be a “taker” – work to give back more than you get.

What Is Working Remotely, and How Can You Excel? The Bottom Line

Working remotely is a growing trend for American professionals, and it’s important for telecommuters to establish themselves – as well as their expectations and limits – while monitoring their own progress. This takes negotiation and, if necessary, renegotiation. Whether you work exclusively from home or have a few offsite tasks, you can gain an edge by focusing on:

  • Your scope of work, operating parameters, and support requirements
  • Your workload, availability, and consistent office hours
  • Your engaged network that will respond with urgency

What is working remotely in your estimation, and according to your own experience? Please share your stories with me and our peers!

Photo by Kaleidico